SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: At the National Film and Video Foundation’s (NFVF’s) Engagement with Industry session held at the Durban FilmMart on 21 July, NFVF CEO Zama Mkosi spoke about the initiatives that are to be introduced in the next three to five years.
This was Mkosi’s first appearance at the annual Durban FilmMart as CEO. She said: “The values of the NFVF going forward are leadership characterised by diversity and accountability. Last year government reaffirmed its commitment to industry so we’ve been able to increase our allocation of funds to films as a result.’
NFVF head of Production & Development Clarence Hamilton noted that this translated to the funding each year of 10 feature films in production (with budgets of between R8m and R10m). He continued: “In addition each year we can fund 15 feature films in development, 15 documentaries in development and 15 documentaries in production.
“New is the funding of TV concepts / formats that can be sold internationally. This has not been introduced to make up for the lack of commissions from public broadcaster SABC, rather it’s our way of saying to the industry – look beyond our borders.’
The NFVF is soon to publish on its website (www.nfvf.co.za) the funding criteria so that filmmakers will know upfront whether their projects are eligible for grants. Rejected projects will receive feedback as to why they didn’t qualify.
According to Mkosi a major new initiative relates to internal operations at the NFVF. “We have embarked on an on-going process of review and introspection. Diversity will be a key initiative going forward and another is how to spread NFVF funds around the industry. In August we will announce a focus on women filmmakers and first-time filmmakers and our bias towards previously disadvantaged individuals (PDIs) continues. Our initiatives are designed to ensure industry transformation.
“In 2013 the South African Film & Television Awards (SAFTAS) turns seven and will take place in March. The SAFTAS has to be a collaboration with the industry in order to work properly. We’re in discussions with the local broadcasters about increasing their involvement in the event and entries open in August.’
Mkosi stressed that the NFVF is an organisation established by law and not a commercial entity nor a charity. “We do what we do because we’re mandated by an Act of Parliament (Act 73 of 1997) so we take our functions very seriously. The NFVF was established to spearhead growth and development of the industry. It’s a privilege that comes with a string of responsibilities.
“One aspect of being a funding organisation is that we’re not popular with everyone all of the time. We want to assure you that we have the best of intentions and we give it our best shot for the industry as a whole. Over the 13 years of our existence I believe we’ve laid a solid foundation from a policy, legislative and funding point of view.’
Hamilton pointed out that the new NFVF council came into effect in 2011 and that Mkosi had been in office as CEO for a few months only.
“We’ve also seen the appointment of three advisory panels to decide on which projects, festivals and training programmes will receive NFVF funding. The difference this year is that the advisory panels are nominated by the industry. Each panel comprises five very experienced industry professionals and they meet four times a year,’ explained Hamilton.
Responding to a question from the floor about audience development Mkosi said: “Our view is that the audience is there if we write scripts properly. However, we do have challenges in exhibition platforms in South Africa and we are awarding funding to initiatives to set up screening facilities in underserviced areas. This is a capital intensive project so we are asking the industry to come up with creative ways to get their content to audiences.’
Hamilton added: “South African films do poorly at the box office on the traditional mainstream circuit. The average South African film costs R7m to make and generates less than R1m at the box office. We want to double the number of screens in South Africa in five years, with particular focus on townships and rural areas.’
A question from the floor pertained to the NFVF’s attitude to indigenous language projects. NFVF Production & Development executive Thandeka Zwana confirmed that the NFVF is always looking for engagement with indigenous language scripts. “To this end we have appointed indigenous language script editors. The NFVF also has an annual short film competition which is directed at indigenous language writers and women. We allocate funding based on the story and not on the province from which it comes. The story is always our first point of reference.’
The issue of NFVF interaction with the SABC was raised. Hamilton noted that the NFVF met with SABC recently to try and revive previous collaborations with the SABC, such as successful mini-series.
“We want to collaborate with the SABC on a number of fronts,’ he concluded.
Report by Joanna Sterkowicz